In a recent meeting I was asked whether there is a standard approach to signage in reporting. I think we can all agree this is a big question. “Reporting” covers a wide range of purposes and platforms. Did the client mean management, statutory or transactional? Were they looking at the consolidation tool, budgeting and forecasting or analytical? The implications of the decision are wide ranging for the usability of your financial applications, and therefore it needs significant thought.
However, it is a common question. There is no standard! With my consulting hat on, the solution is clear: an organisation needs to adopt a single reporting standard which addresses its management, financial and transactional reporting purposes. What that standard is, from my selfish point of view, is immaterial! I have included an example of signage standards, but this is by no means the only approach.
In my past life as a management accountant, I spent many a late night during month-end trying to reconcile reports across Oracle Hyperion Essbase, HFM (Hyperion Financial Management and Oracle E-Business suite (EBS). Were the numbers I was seeing correctly sign-flipped? As each application was using its own approach to sign-flipping, how could I be sure that the rules had not fallen out of alignment?
Then I discovered masterdata governance. I found that by centralising all our financial masterdata (including our report definitions) into a single location we could create a single definition of our core financial constructs, including a single definition of the signage rules. These rules were then published for use in all our financial reporting applications, thereby ensuring that they were using the standard definition. Once implemented, I spent less time reconciling and more time analysing, a benefit that I think all my fellow accountants and the business would see as a “positive”!
Until next week.